Planet Blue Malibu

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, and neither is its impact on retail.

Planet Blue, the Los Angeles-based chain of casual women’s wear boutiques, is closing all of its retail locations and will operate only online for the foreseeable future. It’s unclear if the company will continue to operate online after its inventory is sold. A statement the business put out this week on Instagram gave few details and a representative could not be immediately reached. The company is now offering steep discounts on merchandise online.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support over the past few days,” the retailer wrote on social media this week, referencing its closures.

The company has six stores in Southern California alone, and another six units elsewhere, mainly in warm locales like Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Texas. Planet Blue had a store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood for a time, but that previously closed.

Planet Blue did not cite the pandemic for its closures, but the coronavirus has severely impacted retail over the course of the year. First with lockdowns in most of the U.S. that forced nonessential retailers to close for weeks, and then continuation of the virus and major spikes in its spread as the White House has made no formal effort to deal with the pandemic. The chief of staff for President Trump admitted at the end of October that his administration is “not going to control the pandemic” and was only expecting it to be handled when a vaccine became available. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden revealed Monday a “task force” of scientists and health experts he said he will take advice from on how to manage the pandemic and the distribution of a vaccine, when it’s available.

Planet Blue was founded as a small boutique in Malibu about 25 years ago by Ling-Su Chinn and in the Aughts, became a shopping destination for the trendy celebrities of the day. Paparazzi would linger in the parking lot in front of the store at Malibu Country Mart to get shots of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and others going in and out, inevitably carrying the retailer’s lime green bag with a cartoon earth on it. It became the quintessential idea of the L.A. boutique and L.A. fashion, with denim galore, expensive hoodies, track suits and boho vibes.

But in more recent years its popularity declined even as the company’s retail footprint expanded. Casual fashion trends moved away from an expanse of premium denim and fringe, and Planet Blue didn’t seem to move along with it.

In 2018, the company tried to resuscitate with a new chief executive officer in Eddie Bromberg, who came over from Cotton Citizen, where he’d been president. He succeeded James Williams, who led Planet Blue for a decade. Bromberg made it a point to tell WWD that he had no interest in making major changes to the company’s branding, instead looking to expand on the opportunities he saw open to it, mainly through its in-house lines and wholesale.

“We’re definitely trying to put together a very good, forward-thinking group and the best way to put this is to be respectful of the legacy,” Bromberg said then.

At the time of Bromberg’s hire, which coincided with the exit of founder Chinn, the business was said to be doing $40 million in annual volume and its stores were all cash positive. Planet Blue had also just hired Lauren Myers as its vice president of retail. But she left the company in August, according to an online profile.

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